Maternal and Infant Health

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 13:54

When presented with the problem of Mexico’s greatest health concerns, many think not only of chronic disease such as diabetes and cancer but also of teenage pregnancies. “Another great issue is pregnancy in girls and teenagers. Children of 10-14 years old are having babies. There were 400,000 births in 2015 and almost one in every five births is to a teenage mother. The government has implemented a national strategy aimed at preventing teenage pregnancies, which are often unwanted and unplanned.,” says José Narro, Mexico’s Minister of Health. Additionally, early childhood disease has been one of the top 10 causes of death in Mexico every decade since the 1950s. Globally, maternal mortality has plagued women for millennia and although most deaths are now preventable, they still occur, mostly in developing countries.


According to the WHO, 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Although Mexico has many policies in place to prevent maternal and infant deaths, many pregnant women, especially in rural areas, are unaware of official recommendations and policies. Many maternal and infant deaths can be prevented with the correct care. Unfortunately, not all women receive this care due to factors such as poverty, distance, lack of information, inadequate services and cultural practices. In Mexico, UNICEF has implemented RapidPro, a tool available through the government’s Prospera Digital program, to bring information rapidly and effectively to underprivileged women through digital means.


According to the WHO, pregnancy and childbirth are the second-greatest cause of death in 15-19-year olds globally. Babies born to teenage mothers face a 50 percent higher risk of dying in the first few weeks or being stillborn than those born to mothers aged 20-29. Teenage pregnancy also has a lasting impact on education levels as over 90 percent of teenage mothers do not attend classes. The WHO reports that although adolescent births count for 11 percent of all births, they account for 23 percent of disease due to pregnancy and childbirth. In January 2015, President Peña Nieto launched the National Strategy for the Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy (ENAPEA), whose objectives are to reduce the rate of pregnancy in 15-19-year olds by 50 percent and eradicate pregnancy in under-14s by 2030.


Approximately 2.7 million newborn babies died in 2015 globally and an additional 2.6 million are stillborn, according to the WHO. According to OECD figures, infant mortality rates in Mexico in 2014 were 12.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 17.6 in 2004. Infant mortality is defined as the death of a child under the age of one. A WHO report pegs the annual number of neonatal deaths in Mexico at 14,594 for the year 2013, the main causes of which are prematurity and congenital abnormalities. Chronic diseases are responsible for over half of infant or post-neonatal deaths (aged one month to 59 months).